Am I Too Old For My First Tattoo? » VSB

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Am I Too Old For My First Tattoo?



I don’t have any tattoos. It’s not for lack of want either. For the longest, I’ve wanted to get a sleeve. I feel like I would look cool with my entire left arm tatted up. I have ideas of tats that I want and where I’d place them. I’m a tat-dreamer.

There’s the “inshallah” tat that I want to get on the inside of my left forearm. There’s the Gemini tattoo I want to get. My brother who passed away deserves some real estate, as do the names of my children. I even thought about the Outkast crown. I’ve got ideas. I’ve also got no idea where all of these things would go.

And while I do prefer to go through life in as little physical pain as possible, I feel like if my sisters – and they all have tattoos; one of my sisters has like fifteen – can handle the pain, then I can handle the pain. So no, that’s not (entirely) what’s holding me back.

What’s holding me back is this: I feel like I’m too old to get my first tattoo. That ship has sailed in my eyes. My second, third, or twelth? Sure. No problem. If that was the case I’d have already given in to the tat life. I’d be expanding my catalog. But my very first? The maiden voyage at age 36? That just seems wrong. Trying Too Hard called, they want their title back.

I realize this could all be in my own head. It’s highly likely that not a single other soul on this planet gives a shit if I get a tattoo at this point in my life. Nobody cares; nor should they. People have their own lives to live and those lives don’t involve being up in arms because I’m trying too hard to relive some youth I forgot to live.  But I do live in my own head. I pay a mortgage (you can always tell folks who own homes, they no longer talk about paying rent, they speak in terms of mortgages) and have bought some nice wicker baskets to match my fanciest IKEA décor.

You know what also makes a first time tattoo at 36 less than enticing? It’s the fact that so many people with tattoos seem to regret them. Soulja Boy, hardly a person to model one’s life after, has even taken to getting his tats remove from his face (though to be fair, they don’t belong there in the first place). We saw this on the Love & Hip Hop Hollywood Reunion show. André 3000 has expressed regret over his tattoos. As has Pharrell. 50 Cent? Samesies. Obviously, they feel regret for different reasons, but these are very rich men who could walk into any room no matter how tatted up they were and they’d be listened to. I have something to lose. I’m not saying getting a tattoo would cost me a job, but I’d have to be strategic about where I placed them. I’m a professional, ya know.

The point is that many people – including the aforementioned rappers – have gotten tattoos in their youth have come to regret them later. Now, part of that is being young and reckless, and I’m old and wise so any choice I’d be making now would be on purpose and with intention. But again, that gets back to the, “too old” thing: what’s the purpose in getting something permanently etched onto your body anyway? Couldn’t I just get a nice piece of artwork to hang in my home? Or write it down somewhere?

I probably could. Nothing I want to get tattooed on my person is something that I won’t remember about myself or that I need on my body permanently in order for it to be personal and representative of me. At this point, everything I want is just part of who I am and a tattoo won’t make it more so.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that this is something I’ve always wanted to do and never did. I also have no reason why I never did it. I easily could have gotten all of the tattoos that my heart desired when I was younger. Lord knows I gave a shot to some interesting fashion choices. I’ve gone through many phases in life and have nary a regretful tattoo to show for it, despite always having wanted one. So maybe I need to do it to get it out of my system and possibly immediately regret it but will have learned my lesson. Or maybe I’ll fall in love and become a fiend like others and be 42 years old still getting things I already know about myself added to my temporary soul-holder.

I don’t know. But I’ve gone 36 years so far without one. There’s a really good chance I’ll go the distance.

I hope I don’t regret that.

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Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at

  • tiggatae

    I feel you on this! And have recently been pondering whether I’m too old to get a 3rd earring… It’ll look good with my new short hair, but… maybe the time for new piercings has past… I’m in the same age bracket as you, btw. Sigh… choices… choices…

    • YeaSoh

      No one knows you’re too old unless you tell them… and who even asks anymore? People don’t care about the when

  • DBoySlim

    You’re never too old for ink. This guy is my inspiration.

    • He’s snappy and I like it.

    • YeaSoh

      And you know what he could have JUST gotten those a month ago and it wouldn’t matter.

    • Tat swag with a tie!

    • Question

      But that’s also a traditional japanese tattoo (irezumi). One cohesive piece of art.

      …Not some random collection of bodily shoutouts a la Wiz.

    • RM

      this guy’s not old.. he’s just going for that LA retro blue-collar old-man bike mechanic/cop tattooed look.

    • CozyVon

      LOVE this elder right here (90-something Whang OD, the last Kalinga Filipino tattoo artist):

    • TLati

      It looks like he scribbled on his arms with some Crayola crayons.

  • YeaSoh

    Eh, are you really torn? PJ, it’s just a tat. The way I see it (I being tattoo-free btw), people get tats because it makes them feel good to see it on their body – well initially for many. Whatever it is. If you don’t feel that way about anything then don’t get a tat. If you do, go for it and stop being a wuss. <3

  • menajeanmaehightower

    Sleeves are hot on people who have the bodies for them. Meaning your arms should be lean and cut to carry them well. However, do you if that isn’t your body type. Your body, your money, your decision.

    Can we discuss these youngins I see walking around with neck tats all the way up to their ears? Anything past your collarbone and you aren’t going places in life. It’s such a trend but unlike me being able to throw my skort into the back of my closet, you have to physically and PAINFULLY get a tattoo removed.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      For the life of me, I’m trying to figure out how anyone thinks they look GOOD in the face after getting tatted up all over the vital spots.

      Look at Wiz. I can’t even classify him as human let alone fuckable. I get it’s all cute and trendy now but that still doesn’t change the point.

      • QuirlyGirly

        I don’t think I have seen anyone with a tattoo on their face that looks good.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Nor have I. It’s mad weird

      • LadyIbaka

        Well Christina Milian would beg to differ about his effability. Is she still writing hood essays on their love that never was?

        • QuirlyGirly

          So was Wayne just a substitute for Wiz?

          • LadyIbaka

            Say what now?! She was with Khalifa too?

            • QuirlyGirly

              LOL!- No-at least I don’t think so. I thought you were saying that Christina was writing essays about Wiz. So I was asking was Wayne a sub for Wiz.

    • Pinks

      I mean, if you’re looking to go corporate places, you may have some trouble. There are some places whose cultures are bending to allow things like visible sleeves, though. And there’s always a tattoo parlor for work lol

      • DebKII

        As a graphic designer, I haven’t had a boss without visible tattoos.

        Depends on the industry

        • Pinks

          Ditto. I write and edit, and the creatives are always inked up.

          • menajeanmaehightower

            On their faces though? And necks?

            • Pinks

              I haven’t seen any face tattoos, but one of my old bosses had oen on the neck. heck, my pops has a neck tattoo lol

            • DebKII

              Necks for sure. About three people I work with have neck tattoos and you’d proly think my place is corporate if I told you the name.

              Oh and behind the ear! A lot have those.

              • menajeanmaehightower

                Whet? LOL.

                • DebKII

                  I work in corporate america and three of my coworkers have neck tattoos…

                  A couple have behind the ear tattoos. Sorry if I typed too fast on the first one.

                  • menajeanmaehightower

                    You didn’t and it definitely depends on your field. So I get it. In the field I’m in, I don’t think i would take someone seriously who had a neck tat unless they were in the IT realm.

              • AlwaysCC

                behind the ear seems to be popular with a lot of corp women. it’s easily covered by hair.

        • L8Comer

          I’m a huge fan btw ;) Buying myself a piece of your work as a Christmas give to me!!

          • DebKII

            Haha Thanks! Really appreciate that!

            And here I was thinking I’m incognito…

            • L8Comer

              Hahaha, sorry to blow your cover! Nah, I’m an early follower of your work… we went to the same undergrad too! So glad to see you’re getting more recognition in the last year. :)

    • PhlyyPhree

      I have a neck tat. It hasn’t stopped me from getting two promotions in the past year. I work in sales so…eh. I guess it depends on the industry? Idk.

  • NO, YOU ARE NOT! I got my first tat this spring, and my second tat this past Saturday.

    (Now. Let me go back and actually read this post lol.)

  • Lakyn

    I lowkey hate tattoos. Even though I’m of the millennial gen where everyone seems to have at least 5, I just…I just don’t like them. I feel like unless you want to start identifying as “a tattooed American,” you don’t need one. The addiction is real, too. I know people who went from no tattoos to nearly covered in less than a year, so, be ready to potentially get lost in the rabbithole.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      I can get that for people who get them impulsively for the trend. But I don’t see anything wrong with people who get tats that truly mean something to them.

    • Pinks

      Yea, for the most part those were just buzz pieces, aka things you get just because you’re feening for the needle again. People are surprised when they hear how many I have because I guess I don’t fit the stereotype of what a “tatted up” woman is supposed to look or act like.

    • ChiefbutnotA_Keef

      I just find them tacky. ALL of them.

    • Unicorn Tears

      I know I sound sexist but I hate women with big gawdy tattoos. Especially ones on their arms, boobs, etc. I always say there’s a fine line between it looking “cute” and just straight up ratchet. Especially if you’re in a nice dress at a fancy event and you have a bright orange tiger climbing down your left boob -_-. I find when most people think of a tattoo it means they need this huge piece of art that takes up half a limb instead of getting something small yet meaningful and somewhat discreet…..just my 2cents. For those of you who love big tattoos, keep doing you boo.

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        I get why some people have that view. To me, it just depends on the tattoo. If it’s the basic paw tattoos on the boobs, baby daddy’s name on the arm…blah. That sucks.

        There’s a lawyer here at my job that has a sleeve tattoo of a psychedelic koi fish. She went from basic white girl to super thug in my eyes in like 2.5 seconds. I like good art.

      • Pinks

        I think it depends on the subject of the tat. Names, especially one’s own name, annoy me to no end. Why the heck would I need to scrawl Theresa across my forearm like I’m not going to remember that ish is on my birth certificate?!!

        • AlwaysCC

          i generally dislike words/names. i’ve seen some that i like – but they’re few and far in between

        • mssporadic

          I want my initials tatted on me. My initials are the same as a biological component of the body and I work in science/medicine.

          I’m cool with tatting your own name, but not bae’s. I’ve seen too many necklace tats that read “DeShawn’s Girl”.

          • Pinks

            That sounds cool (the scientific tat), especially since it relates to your work. Just something about the full name that prickles me lol

            And yesssss on no bae tats. I know two women in my personal life who have had to have names removed from their bodies. Love is love, but I ain’t loving that deep lol. I do have hubby’s hand on me though, but it’s like…art lmao

        • PhlyyPhree

          I said no names, no initials.
          Let’s just say, I had no choice but to give my daughter the name she has because I had to make those initials mean something dammit!

      • PDL – Cape Girl

        Honey, I agree.

    • QuirlyGirly

      Oh yeah the addiction is too real. There are people who get their eyeballs tatted. Like FOR REAL- your eyeball.

      I personally don’t mind tats (I have one) but I also don’t need a whole sleeve or every part of my body to be tatted either. To each his own but there are limits to everything too.

    • Asiyah

      I have two tattoos and didn’t get addicted to them, but I have attachment issues, so…


    • AquaTeamV3

      Ditto. Most people my age have at least one, but I’ve never cared for them at all. If I want to display something on my body I’ll just wear a graphic tee lol.

  • Runthempearlshoe

    One thing I’ve learnt ever since I got my first tattoo at like 18/19 is the only people that tend to care about whether you have one, what you’re getting, what it means to you, why it means that, whether you’ll regret it, what you’ll do on your wedding day, etc., etc. is people who don’t have them. For the most part nobody cares and as you say nor should they.

    I’ve not done any research on the topic but I’m willing to hazard a guess, that less people regret not getting them then regret getting them because there’s no upper age limit. As long as you’re alive, there’s no reason to walk around regretting not getting a tattoo because it’s just a tattoo, if you regret it that much go get one.

    Now, I’m actually gonna read the post!

  • Nick Peters


  • OSHH

    If I didn’t already have them I wouldn’t get any for the simple fact I like to go against the grain, too mainstream now, not near as cool as they once were. My oldest tat is 21 years old and my youngest is 14.. they are uniquely me and I do not regret them but like I said if I was just starting out, I wouldn’t.

  • Jocelyn

    In the words of Digital Underground, dowhatcahlike (oooh oooh ooooh). I am also 36 but I got my first (and only) tattoo at 23. I often forget I have it. It was fun and simple as to avoid regret later. A few years ago, I made fun of a few of my cousins who copped their first ink at 40 but these chicks got tats in the clavicle area on bodies that no longer had that youthful nubility. Since you know that your face isn’t a good place for ink, I say go for it!

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